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Our Green Story: The Dovecote Barns
Brigita and Richard Bramley are the providers of sustainable five-star self-catering historic 18th-century barn conversions at The Dovecote Barns in Kelfield near York, North Yorkshire.
Richard is the third generation to farm the family arable farm and is environmentally active at national level on behalf of the National Farmers Union, as well as being devoted to maintaining biodiversity in the surrounding landscape and reducing carbon emissions to net zero on the family farm itself where the barns are based. Richard holds the current chairmanship of the NFU Environmental Forum, responsible for lobbying for best practice and focus on environmental issues at government level. Over 7% of the acreage of the arable farm itself is given over to creating and maintaining biodiversity habitats and diverse cropping is managed in harmony with the environment.
'Any investment in farm diversification needed to be future-proof, sustainable, and not have any ill effect on the environment'
Due to flooding on the farm becoming more frequent and no government compensation provided for floodwater storage in Kelfield Ings, an alternative source of income was needed. The Ings are designed to flood to save neighbouring villages and Selby town. However, when Richard’s grandfather first took on the farm in 1935, this was a ‘once in a 100-year’ event. Since 2000, the farm has had 13 flood events, losing crops and income for the family.
A sustainable desire
We are all currently experiencing the effects of climate change, and many are now beginning to think about the effects our way of living is having on the environment. From inception in 2005 (now 17 years ago before going green became a national focus), Brigita and Richard had decided that any investment in farm diversification needed to be future-proof, sustainable, and not have any ill effect on the environment. Hence The Dovecote Barns was born and opened in 2008 with the motto of ‘Luxury breaks …comfort without compromise…for you and the environment’. Four sustainably built and run five-star barn conversions with a small venue allowing group dining and small events. A huge investment, born of an instilled desire for the business to be sustainable and not just ‘green-washing’.
The start of the new Dovecote Barns business journey began in 2005 and most recently has completed in 2020 with the introduction of the fourth barn accommodation and small event venue. The once-active barns used on the farm which gradually fell into disrepair over the 20th century have again in the 21st century come to life, with environmental architects specifying the latest sustainable build methods and environmental mechanical engineers employed to maximise energy efficiency and reduce the impact on the environment. A Visit England five-star gold award standard, as well as a Green Tourism gold award status, were awarded in 2009. Over the last 17 years, The Dovecote Barns has been a multi-award-winning business, at a national level in the Visit England for Excellence awards as well as the regional Welcome to Yorkshire awards and at a local level in the York Tourism Awards.
Brigita and Richard have won multiple awards for their commitment to sustainable business practices.
Brigita and Richard have invested in 'green' technology since it first became available. Electricity is generated via the grid by 118 photovoltaic panels, and an intelligent, highly efficient 60Kw biomass boiler, fueled by sustainably sourced wood pellets (the only one of its kind in the country!) which drives all their hot water and heating needs. If additional electricity is needed, they buy from 100% renewable supplier, ‘Green Energy’. Also, back in 2013, Brigita and Richard installed an electric car charging point for guests when electric cars started to become more available.
A warm welcome
Guests are encouraged to help and support local business partnerships via utilising our local home chef service or by using locally prepared ready meals or platters which use locally produced ingredients. A welcome basket of Yorkshire and local produce and homemade bread is also supplied upon arrival. When needing to venture out, guests are informed of local cycle routes and encouraged to use the public bus service that passes by the barns. Walks from the barns, bus timetables, and local pubs and restaurant recommendations are not only provided online so that guests can pre-plan for their stay but these and local historical sites are also reviewed as part of the personal welcome given to each set of guests on arrival. Brigita will unpack a home delivery supermarket shop on the guests’ behalf before arrival so they can settle straight into their break.
'The Dovecote Barns is a quiet haven away from busy roads with just the sound of birdsong'
Their environmental credentials are not just about energy and building fabric and the landscape. They range from the use of compost bins to the handmade curtains and blinds, artwork provided by the family artists, the reuse of the materials around the farm within the renovations, and the cleaning products used, all helping to add to the environmental ethos. The eco laundry on-site using a hot fill washing machine from the biomass boiler is used by Brigita for laundering during the changeover days. Where possible when converting the buildings, they addressed accessibility and The Irishman’s Cottage is a fully mobility-rated ramped cottage with free mobility aids offered (such as shower chair, grab rails etc) where needed. The small event space called The Long Hall has a full disability-rated toilet with a continence table and weight-bearing toilet rails.
Setting an example
The Dovecote Barns is a quiet haven away from busy roads with just the sound of birdsong and gives guests the opportunity to get out and discover nature in the countryside with walks and quiet roads on which to cycle. It allows large groups to come together and not make a negative impact on the environment by providing them with everything they need for proper composting, waste, and recycling facilities, and all their energy from renewable sources. Brigita and Richard feel very passionately about the leading role they have played in setting a good environmental example for the next generations to come.
Find out a bit more about their sustainable tourism focus here.
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